'American Idol': The Rooms of Requirement

We will all eventually come to dread the two-hour-long episodes of American Idol, but last night's Double Stuf episode, early-ish along in the season, was entirely welcome. We got to see a lot — a lot of singing, a lot of satisfying judging — that we just could not have seen in an hour. So, oddly, thank you for that, Idol dreammakers!

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We will all eventually come to dread the two-hour-long episodes of American Idol, letting long wails escape our bodies as we check our DVRs sometime around April, so exhausted by this long slog, just wanting everything to be short and sweet. But last night's Double Stuf episode, early-ish along in the season, was entirely welcome. We got to see a lot — a lot of singing, a lot of satisfying judging — that we just could not have seen in an hour. So, oddly, thank you for that, Idol dreammakers!

That said, what exactly the hell was going on last night? Did Ryan accidentally pour some of his personal night-night sleepy juice into the water supply or something? Because just about everyone and their damn mother was fainting last night. Every few seconds you just heard a thud, like standing in an apple orchard, as someone hit the ground. "I love being on American Id- [thunk]" "I feel so ready to sing, I'm super jaz- [thud]" Just over and over again these suckers kept going down (heh suckers going down gross haha) and everyone freaked out at first, but eventually after like the sixth person, everyone was just like "Oh good grief, again? Sven, get the broom." It was ridiculous, and I couldn't help but feel that some of them were crocodile faints. Y'know? Some of them seemed a little not real? Maybe I'm an old hardened Idolmonster who feels no empathy for these shudder-freaks as they struggle to get Made in rainy Los Angeles. Maybe I just have no feelings for them left. Or maybe some of them are being a bit dramatic. I think some of them are being a bit dramatic. Anyway, lots of things happened in this episode, so let's just kinda make a little list here and we'll go beat by beat.

1. During the groups half of the episode, there was one group called GrooveSauce (mmhm) that contained not only Creighton Fraker but also Reed Grim. YES. A group, called GrooveSauce may I remind you, containing both Creighton freakin' Fraker and Reed motherflippin' Grim. It's as if a scientist in a mysterious lab built under a mountain somewhere suddenly exclaimed, half-madly, "I've done it! I've found the world's most annoying combination of things! There's the horrible group name which is a horrific attempt at humor! There's the skin-'n'-bone welpings of Creighton Fraker, AND there's the hideous hamming of Reed motherf--kin' Grim!!! I've done it! GroooooooveSauce!! Ahahahaha!!" and then the lights flickered and the mountain trembled and the lab assistant in the corner grew even more worried, really not sure he should have taken this particular summer internship. Yes. GrooveSauce. With Fraker 'n' Grim. Really the nonpareil worst. Just horrifically annoying. There were other annoying people in the group too. They all went through, every showboating one of them. Then they sang another song about their group name, GrooveSauce. Because GrooveSauce was definitely funnier and cooler the fifteenth time, thanks guys. Awful! Sorry if you like them, but you are wrong. Worst people on the show. Every last one of them.

2. Even though that girl Tent in the Woods was the "patient zero" (according to Ryan's medical expertise, anyway) of the Great Idol Plague of 2012, she's not the one in her group who collapsed just before the performance. No, some other lady from the group fell to the floor and it was verryyy [eye roll] but what can you do. Most of this group got sent home, so Tent in the Woods will have to return to her tent in the woods. Which is sad, and I feel bad for her, but I just wish she'd been a little more pleasant here on this cruel, cold reality program.

3. A bunch of people forgot their lyrics, as always. (They should be watching this show for protips.) A few of the more egregious people started making up lyrics like "I can't believe I forgot the lyrics, oh my god this is awful" and other terrible things. I mean, I feel for them, I do. But the way these kids committed to these made-up lyrics I think was supposed to deflect embarrassment, to offer forth whimsy and humor in place of abject mortification, but really it was just more embarrassing than humming or Ohhing or Yeahhhing would have been. Because the judges were not amused and neither were the other contestants watching in the audience. It was just lamesville. I didn't pay close enough attention in the second half to be sure, but I don't think any of the made-up meta lyrics people are through to the next round. They shouldn't be.

4. Oh god, remember the police officer from last week? The one who kept saying "I'm a cop, I'm a cop, I'm a cop. You like cops? You don't like cops. Nobody likes cops."? She was a piece. of. work. and so of course we got to watch her big group number last night. Her group walked out on stage and the cop was like "You guys ready to have some fun?? This has been a boring morning so far, so we're gonna rock this!" or something. I mean it was unbearable. And then! And then her group went and it literally sounded like a baby lizard farting. Just a thin, whispery, ugly sound that made everyone scrunch up their faces. After all that grandstanding they did, when it was time to sing they just devolved into a series of noises that sounded like owls dying. It was really something. It was kind of like that Shy Ronnie sketch on SNL. All intro, no delivery. ANYWAY, after they sang they all got eliminated (yoooops) but, of course, the cop stayed on to say something about going back to being a cop in Indianapolis (did you guys know that she's a cop? she is) and that she'd offer them all personal security if they ever need it. So. OK. Yup. Goodbye! I will genuinely miss you, lady. But wait, what is it you do for work again?

5. This has all been pretty negative so far I know (it gets worse), but here is a positive ray of light so bright and blinding that it is like looking into the face of Jason Castro: During one group's performance the cameras cut backstage to where their families were watching, and one lady, one very mom-type lady wearing a sweater and balloon jeans (there is no other way to describe these jeans) and pointy cowboy boots, was doing the most amazing dance. It was this thing where she leaned back and kicked her legs out on her heels. It's hard to describe, so if someone can get me video or a gif of this I will be eternally grateful to you, but basically it looked sort of like the way the pimp walks in Homer's wonderful New York memory on The Simpsons. It was this really great, festive, dance-like-nobody's-watching mom dance and I could have watched two hours of it. They need to have her be a backup dancer for the whole season. Just be-bopping in the background for all the performances, slowing it down but still very much doing it for the ballads. It will really be that "added value" that every Mary-Margaret Marketing and Annie Adsales is always talking about. Just a really special dance. Dance on, mom! Please dance on forever. Kick, heel, back. Kick, heel, back. Oh, it was so great.

6. The Cute Boy Brigade is all through, not just the group round but also through the Rooms of Doom. The Brigade consists of Phillip Phillips, the dark angel that is Colton Dixon, and of course Johnny Keyser aka Johnny Sandwiches. The rest of Johnny Sandwiches' group was sent home, but of course he was going through. And you could tell he knew it. In fact, this guy has kind of gone beyond cocky and turned into something else, hasn't he? Here we all were thinking that Colton was the only dark force of evil this season, but no! Johnny Sandwiches is, I think, some sort of bad creature from a bad place. There's something in those too-chiseled vampire looks, those beady black eyes that glimmer with an acid knowledge that suggests that he will do great but wicked things this season. And he's got J.Lopes in his nefarious thrall. She is drawn to him like a moth straight into a flame. I worry for her. I worry for everyone. But yeah, well done, Cute Boy Brigade. And Phillip? Watch your back. There be demons around you. (If you don't want to watch your back I'll do it for you.)

7. Back to Reed Grim, I'm afraid to say. After the group eliminations, everyone got a chance to do a minute-long performance in front of the judges and lots of people did well (some 16-year-old girl wailed on "What a Wonderful World," some guy sang that dopey "Ice inside your soul/Jar of hearts" song but at least sang it well, Colton didn't sound that great, but he sounded good enough), so that was pleasing to watch. But Reed, oh Reed Grim. He was planning on singing a cappella, but then! Somehow! At the last moment! The producers informed him that he couldn't sing a cappella, so oh no! He needed to figure out what to sing with the band! This all felt very manufactured, especially considering there was a vocal coach and the band director on hand to help him and the cameras followed him and it was a whole big lotta drama for a guy that, I guess, they're banking pretty hard on. The whole thing was very stagey and irksome, though it was great to watch the vocal coach (who, a friend informed me, is Katharine McPhee's mother — how's that for odd synergy?) continuously slap Reed into focus whenever he tried to go on some digression to the cameras. Stop showboatin', son! Just sing. So after this non-nailbiter nailbiter, Reed went up there and played drums while singing (how Bieber of him) and everyone hooted and hollered, but not me. Oh no siree bob. I am onto this shtick. This is all nonsense. Reed Grim is being forced upon us like cod liver oil and I don't like it. Who's with me on this? Who's comin' with me on this one??? No more Reed Grim! No Grimmo in 2012! Damn the man, save the empire! I mean, save Phillip Phillips! Together we can do it.

8. All told, three of the four Doom Rooms were passed through to the next round, which means that tonight we have another  elimination round (in Vegas!), and then next week there's more singing and auditioning, but at least by a week from tomorrow we will know who is in the semifinals. So we're almost to the voting, kids. We're almost there. No one particularly shocking went home from the Rooms last night. In fact it was pretty obvious that at least two of the rooms were going through, as they basically stables chock-full of the all-stars that the producers have been carefully grooming all season long. One thing of note: You may have noticed that I've spent a lot of time these past few weeks talking about the guys and not really the girls. Maybe that's my fault, maybe I should be better at distinguishing from the sea of blonde, but I also think they've been leaning really heavy on the guy favorites, don't you? What do you think the strategy is there? Last year it was clear that they really wanted a girl to win, and obvs that didn't happen. So maybe this year they're trying some reverse psychology on us? Or maybe they've just given into the squealing hormone demon that is this show's demographic and are just like "OK, you want cute crooners, here are your cute crooners, Teenmerica." It's tough to say, but it will be interesting to see what ladies make it to the semis next week, mostly because we've barely seen any of them. So many dudes so far! So very many dudes.

9. Not that everyone is complaining. No, certain people aren't complaining about that at all. Driving home after the grueling group night, winding his speedy little sports car up through the Hills, Ryan found himself humming one of the songs Phil Phillips had sung that day. He felt guilty, thinking of Tim home all alone, waiting until Ryan got back, but then quickly he remembered. No, of course he shouldn't feel guilty. Of course not. Tim was spending all his time with Colton these days, they were always out until all hours, coming stumbling and laughing through the door mere hours before Ryan had to wake up and do it all over again. Or they'd be home, whispering things to each other on the couch but suddenly stopping when Ryan entered the room. What game was Colton playing? Ryan couldn't quite figure it out. All he knew was that whenever Tim would leave the room to pee or fix another drink, Colton would turn his black angel gaze on Ryan, that hair so sharp and menacing. They wouldn't say a word, Ryan a little too scared to confront him and ask him just what the hell did he think he was doing, and something wicked but quiet turning like gears in Colton's head. And then Tim would bounder back into the room and the tense, silent moment would be broken and Ryan would shudder and bid them goodnight. And he swears, he swears he swears he swears, that one of those nights he could feel Colton in the room. Tim downstairs blasting Laura Nyro, dancing around in his barefeet, Ryan asleep in the dark room. And then that presence of Colton, as if he was standing by the bed staring down. And Ryan awoke with a start, turned on the bedside lamp to find no one there. Just the noises from downstairs, just the lonely tick of the clock. So Ryan went back to sleep, dreamed troubled dreams, swung his legs out of bed in the morning and felt something prick his foot. And when he looked to see what had pricked him, a little drop of blood trickling out, he saw that it was a long spiky hair, sharp and hard like a porcupine's. He thought of waking up Tim, sprawled and snoring next to him, but no, he decided. He'd need to figure this out on his own, do his own investigation. So he picked up the phone, dialed a number. "Yes hi? Indianapolis police department? I'm trying to reach one of your officers. I think I might need some help after all."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.